ALTARNUN PARISH CHURCH

WELCOME to the website of the Church of St. Nonna.

The modern spellling of "Altarnun" is in fact wrong.  The correct spelling is Altarnon, meaning the altar of St Non (or Nonna).  She was the mother of St David, and left her native Wales around the year 527.  The Welsh Holy well of St Non is to be found not far from St David`s Cathedral.   Besides being the patron of this parish, she is also patron of Pelynt, near Looe, and of Dirinon in Brittany (where, confusingly, the saint is commemorated as a man).   This shows Nonna to be one of the very many celtic missionaries  who, coming from Ireland or Wales, passed through Cornwall on the way to Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries.

Of St. Nonna`s building nothing remains.   The Normans built a church here in the early 12th century, only a few pieces of which are still to be found (for example the font).  The church you now see dates from the early 15th century, built partly of natural moorstone, which is unquarried.   Notably, the pillars, capitals and bases are monoliths.  The window mullions are original, except for those in the west windows, which were renewed after a lightning strike caused part of the tower to fall onto a section of the west wall in 1791.   The wood for the church, according to tradition, comes from the mansion of the Trelawney family, near Treween, which was dismantled in the 15th century.

You can see that at one stage the font was painted - look at the faces in the corners.

But the feature for which the Cathedral of the Moors is best known is the collection of 79 bench ends, which were carved by Robert Daye between 1510 and 1530.  They depict traditional Christian symbols, as well as everyday subjects, such as sheep on the moors, a jester, fiddler, sword dancers - and a Cornish bagpiper.   A booklet describing them all is for sale in church.

The screen dates from the 1880s, made from wood from a much older and larger rood screen.  The ornate canopy at either end is late Victorian, and as you can see was not completed.   The handsome altar rail is one of the longest in any Cornish parish church and was made in 1684.   Along its length is an inscription naming the vicar, John Ruddle, and churchwardens William Pricleaux and Samson Cowl.

The one piece of stained glass is in the east window and is said to represent St Nonna (though elsewhere an identical depiction from the same factory represents St John The Evangelist!).  The organ was installed in 1956 in place of an earlier instrument, but is now itself due for replacement as it is showing the effects of long service.   The tower has eight bells, which have recently been refurbished.   The very fine Celtic cross by the church gate dates from the 6th century.

St Nonna's Holy Well is to the north-east of the church and on the oppositie side of the road.   It was one of two Cornish "bowssening" wells, its waters allegedly having curative powers for lunatics.   The unfortunate "victims" were paraded to the well - which is really a plunge bath - and ducked in it, while prayers were recited and canticles chanted, until they were "cured".

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ALTARNUN PARISH with BOLVENTOR
Webpage icon BOLVENTOR CHURCH
Webpage icon ALTARNUN PARISH with BOLVENTOR